Cafe Resentin, 170 Goldhawk road, W12 8HJ
22 June 2013
I’m tempted to say there’s plenty to resent in this café, but that’s a bit unfair; a bit pun first, ask questions later. It is fiendishly difficult to find specifically Bosnian-Herzegovinian food in London. Despite the recent diaspora, and rumours of a Bosnian community around Bayswater, you’ll mostly find less specific Balkan restaurants in London, serving a melange of dishes from the peninsula. It seems the cataclysm of the 1990s hasn’t extended to ex-pat eateries. So, a relatively young country with fuzzy food boundaries presented a very particular problem. How could we be sure we were eating something Bosnian, rather than Balkan?
Failing a restaurant called Sarajevo Spice, what we needed was a Balkan place run by Bosnia-Herzegovinians. Explosive arguments online over the names of dishes presented a clue. The way forward, we decided, was in dish nomenclature. There was the pleasant-looking Mugi’s in Ealing, but a late intervention (“it’s Serbian! Look at their website!”) put paid to that. I had, however, found the little known Café Resentin on Goldhawk Road, which promised Sarajevski Ćevapi and Sirnica, giving a temptingly Bosnian air to its mixed-Balkan-and-beyond menu (Serbian White Bean Soup, Hungarian Goulash, etc). Surely a hint that our chef is thinking of home?
A bracing stroll from Shepherd’s Bush, Resentin is predominantly a coffee place that does some main meals. A large city-scape covers one wall (“Where is that?” “It must be Sarajevo”), little tables and little chairs are dotted around, a glass counter is full of snacks and sandwich fillings, and shelves in one corner display packets and tins from back home. We sit down with a coffee and await Steve, late as usual.
The menu is displayed on a board on the wall. In the event the wished-for Bosnian-Herzegovinian selection has been streamlined and diluted with more local fare, including the ubiquitous Full English. There is no sirnica listed, but I spot the last one in the shop nestling sulkily beneath the glass counter. It is a small coil of flaky pastry, filled with salty cottage cheese, like meat-free burek. it is a bit soggy but not unpleasant, and we share it between the three of us.
For the main course we order the Sarajevski Ćevapi and the Pljeskavica. There’s nothing particularly interesting to drink, so we settle for cokes. The Ćevapi is a large collection of small, spiced, merguez-like sausages, served in a nice, airy somun flatbread, somewhere between naan and pitta. It comes with minimal adornment, save for a cleansing yoghurt dip and some thinly sliced red onion. It tastes pleasant enough, but is hamstrung by its sheer size and lack of variety in terms of texture and flavour, so that eating it becomes a chore somewhere around the halfway mark. The Pljeskavica, daringly, is almost exactly the same – the same fluffy flatbread, the same yoghurt and onion sides, and apparently the same meat, but now pounded into a large, flat burger shape. Perhaps they were hoping nobody would ever order both at the same time. All in all the food leaves us full but uninspired. Still, at least we’d managed to find truly Bosnian-Herzegovinian-Balkan food. Hadn’t we?
There’s just time for a quick chat with the friendly waitress before we leave:
“So, where’s that picture of?”
“The big city photo covering the wall over there.”
“That? It’s Novi Sad. Serbia.”
“Ah… well… it’s lovely.”
Food: 2 / 5
Atmosphere 2.5 / 5